What We Learned at Store 2019

Store 2019, Canada’s largest retail show, was held on May 28th and 29th and iQmetrix visited the big city of Toronto to take it all in.

I was so excited to participate and the whole iQmetrix team was far from disappointed by the show. I came home abuzz from some great networking with retail’s finest and with a renewed excitement about where retail is going.

So, where is retail going? Glad you asked! Here are 4 key themes that dominated Store 2019:

1. Embrace the Blur”

And by blur, I mean the grey area between online and offline shopping and the overall shopping experience. We’ve long talked about the omnichannel journey, and how customers are crossing from online to offline, back and forth along their complex path to purchase. And while studying the customer journey is important, it’s also critical to organize yourself internally around the seamless cross-channel nature of that customer journey. As the customer approach is channel agnostic, so should your internal teams and metrics be. What does this mean in practice? Think about metrics around store performance and online performance and about in-store teams and online teams; those are pretty channel specific. Look to break down the silos and competitive metrics between one channel and another and prioritize metrics around the overall customer journey, not what channel won” the customer over.

And as Stephen Dennis put it in his presentation, cloud-based technology is critical in order to achieve this channel agnostic approach to managing your business and managing the customer experience.

2. Store as Media

A provocative thought, no? Doug Stephens, the Retail Prophet, hooked us up with this idea and it was repeated a number of times in the show. But what is media? It’s where products are displayed, information is conveyed, and sales are transacted. And what really is a store? It’s where products are displayed, information is conveyed, and sales are transacted. Your store is not just a place of business, it’s an extension of your brand. Think about digitally-native brands that are now opening up brick-and-mortar stores. Yes, the store is a place to sell products, but it’s also a way for an online brand to give their customers a physical place to go to experience the brand.

Let’s look at how can you start to treat your store as media? If you truly see your store as a media channel for you, you can look at how you measure the value of your store. Have you ever counted the number of in-store impressions when you’re measuring your media performance? If your store is media, you should be tracking it like you track your media platforms. What you get back for what you spend in store might surprise you.

Also, think about this: the store as media is a way to cut through the media noise. There was a study with a classroom of Canadian students where they counted the number of notifications that the students received on their phone for 45 minutes. They counted over hundreds of notifications! With that level of bombardment and over-stimulation of online messaging, think about how much an online message from your brand will resonate to the mobile shopper. And now think about how you can control all the messages your customer receives in store. I would suggest limiting it to fewer than hundreds of messages. But I bet you already figured that out.

3. Chose Your Customer Experience Adventure

Which one will it be: a high-fidelity experience or a high-utility experience?

A high-fidelity experience is one where the retailer connects emotionally to the customer and creates a strong sense of community around their brand. Think about Smash & Tess, whose CEO was one of the speakers at the show. Although they’re online only, they create a consistent experience that’s aligned with their brand, from the shopping journey right up until the arrival of the products after delivery. Ashley herself writes notes to the customer to thank them for their purchase, and the tone of those notes are the same tone as the messages on their Instagram account, website, and online marketing. A great example of high-fidelity experience.

A high-utility experience is frictionless, where the retailer is always online and accessible. It’s all about making it easy and quick to get what you want. Think…well, think Amazon.

Now fidelity and utility aren’t mutually exclusive, but it can be hard to be good at both. Think about a store design that’s better for creating a community hub, but requires removing inventory to allow for more communal space in the store. That’s a trade-off between a high-fidelity experience and the high utility experience where access to inventory would be more important. 

The key here is to be good at providing one or the other, either a high-fidelity experience or a high-utility experience. Don’t strive to be good enough at both, because as one speaker put it Good enough no longer is”. If being great at both kinds of experiences is not possible, make a hard choice about what’s more important and in line with your brand, and your customer needs.

4. A Culture of Experimentation

We heard from a lot of retailers who are in the midst or just coming out of a major retail transformation. One example is Staples Canada, who is launching a concept store focused on building a learning community through their stores. Inherent in the idea of retail transformation is a risk. It can be a big risk to reinvent your customer experience, or your stores, or your brand itself. But with the retail evolution afoot, and the collapse of the middle, taking risks is the only way to survive. But as Staples Canada CEO David Boone put it, it’s a game of inches, and not a game of Hail Mary passes we often see in retail. Test something out, and measure and recognize your failures. Make it part of your culture to test and learn. Jeff Bezos is famously proud of even multi-billion dollar failures.

As Seth Godin puts it – If failure isn’t an option, neither is success”

Are you looking to evolve your business, and looking for cloud-based technology to help you make that change? We’ve helped over 20,000 retailers transform their business through our cloud-based POS and retail management software.